I’m 5’7″, but growing up, my female friends were almost exclusively over 5’11” so I just assumed I was on the shorter side of things until I got older and realized I’m a pretty average height, if not a bit above. Being half Peruvian, the majority of my paternal relatives are on the shorter side, so I had that reference; nevertheless, I wished to be taller. However, since this is purely a vanity dream, I cannot imagine going through leg lengthening surgery the way that Massachusetts woman Tiffanie DiDonato did–twice.

DiDonato, 32, has a form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplasia which has led her to have a “typical size” torso and atypically short arms and legs; as a middle schooler, she was only 3’6″ tall. According to ABC News, she’d always dreamed of being tall enough to reach objects above her, cook and drive, but was never able to because of her height.

So, starting at 8-years-old, she underwent multiple leg lengthening procedures that led her to gain 14 inches of height, eventually bringing her to a height of 4’10” (legally on the edge of Constitutional Short Stature). While it helped her gain even more inches than expected, it was an extremely painful process: the surgery involves breaking bones and forcing them to re-grow longer.

“When I woke up, when it hurt so much, you freeze it, almost like if you scream it is going to hurt worse,” she said. “All you can do is kind of let the tears fall and deal with it and suck it up and let it ride.”

Now, though, DiDonato is extremely pleased with her height now, and has a husband and baby. Though her father says he thinks she’s “lost a little mobility,” he also notes that her happiness is what matters.

To many people, “beauty is pain” is an everyday philosophy of life, whether it’s expressed via braces, hair removal, high heels, Botox or anything else that completely sucks but alters your appearance. But when does that cross a line into being dangerous? Is this no different than any other cosmetic surgery, or is it much closer to reconstructive surgery?

I’m a firm believer that you should have total control over what happens to your body, particularly when it comes to any form of surgery (sans life-threatening situations in which you cannot make the decision because you’re unconscious). Plus, DiDonato is able to live her life in a way she finds more efficient and fulfilling because of the leg lengthening procedure, so who’s to say she shouldn’t do what she wishes with her body?

As a matter of fact, quite a few people do not think it’s a good idea. Another person with dwarfism interviewed in ABC”s article, Reza Garanaki, said that he was pushed into the surgery by his father and was left with paralyzation. He stated he “would have rather been three feet tall than be a few inches tall with all the complications.” The advocacy group Little People of America is officially against it, and notifies potential patients that the procedure can cause permanent nerve and vascular damage. That said, all surgery comes with some form of risk; if you’re aware of this and willing to look beyond it, then that’s your decision. Personally, I would never  choose to have any surgery–I do not react well to anesthesia–but then, I don’t have any condition that impairs my daily life which would be solved by a procedure like this, so I have zero room to judge.

I think it’s commendable that DiDonato is sharing a story that may help others with similar conditions understand more about the surgery, post-effects, aftercare and more. She’s even had her journal turned into a memoir simply titled “Dwarf,” which reveals more about her own psychology while going through the experience.

Photo: ABC